The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is a grouping of 20 countries: 15 member states and five associate members, representing a region that is home to approximately 16 million citizens. It was created July 4, 1973, with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which transformed the Caribbean Free Trade Association to create a Common Market.
It includes countries considered to be “developing,” and all members and associate members are island states, with the exception of Belize in Central America, and Guyana and Surinam in South America.
The organization emerged as a product of 15 years of efforts to promote regional integration and was constituted with the fundamental objectives of raising the standard of living and working conditions in the region’s nations; reducing unemployment; accelerating, coordinating, and supporting economic development; and promoting trade and economic relations with third countries and blocs of nations.
Caricom’s principal governing bodies are its Conference and Council. The Conference is the highest authority of the regional organization and includes the heads of state and government of member countries. It is responsible for establishing policy and authorizing the signing of treaties within the Caribbean Community and with other integration organizations.
The Council, for its part, is composed of Foreign Ministers and responsible for the implementation of strategic plans, coordinating the integration of different sectors, and promoting cooperation among members.
Caricom is the world’s oldest regional integration movement, and although often unrecognized, its accomplishments have been many, especially in concrete cooperation in the areas of education, health, culture, and security.
CUBA & CARICOM
On December 8, 1972, four English-speaking Caribbean countries won their independence and established diplomatic relations with Cuba, in an act of unquestionable political courage: Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, and Jamaica. This historic decision constituted the first step in breaking the diplomatic blockade mounted by the United States against Cuba, opening a door to reduce the isolation to which the country had been subjected in the region because of U.S. pressure.
Cuba and Caricom countries share deep historical and cultural roots that date back to the formation of our national identities, which have been gradually strengthened as the young states of the Community gained independence.
The first Cuba-Caricom Summit was held in Havana in 2002, initially as a meeting of heads of state and government to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the aforementioned event. The second meeting took place in
Bridgetown, Barbados, in 2005; and the third in Santiago de Cuba, in 2008.
It was during the second gathering that Fidel stated: “We must respond to neoliberal, self-interested globalization, to the anti-democratic international political and economic order, with unity and the globalization of solidarity and the promotion of dialogue, integration, and genuine cooperation.”
During this same Summit, Caricom governments awarded the leader of the Cuban Revolution the organization’s Honorary Order, recognizing his unblemished, human conduct, and his unconditional support of efforts to achieve progress and wellbeing in the region.
These gatherings are now approaching their 39th edition, providing an opportunity for reflection and decision-making by high-level leaders to strengthen and broaden relations of cooperation and solidarity.
Over the years, Caricom member countries and Cuba have constructed a relationship based on cooperation, solidarity, and mutual respect. Cuban collaborators are currently working in 1,644 Community nations, and more than 98,901 persons in the region have regained their eyesight via Operation Miracle.
Through May of 2018, more than 5,780 Caribbean youth have graduated from Cuban educational institutions, the vast majority with university degrees. These are young men and women who have returned to their countries and communities with a deep commitment to contributing to the development of their peoples. Currently studying in Cuba on scholarship are 740.
At a time when the region urgently needs to advance toward new and improved forms of integration, Caricom, based on the relations of friendship and respect shared by its members, has organizational and work experience that can serve to support the process of consolidation and strengthening of Caribbean and Latin American unity and cooperation.